What is Domestic Violence?
“Domestic violence” is a term that is used to describe intimate partner violence, but it does not even begin to accurately describe the reality.
Two people meet and “fall in love.” That becomes an excuse for possessiveness, morbid jealousy, control, and eventually verbal, psychological and physical abuse and violence to enforce that control. Both parties are often committed to maintaining the façade of a happy union – the controlled because she is being told it’s her fault by her abuser and sometimes also by society, and the controller because he wants to maintain dominance -- but behind closed doors, a dynamic of power imbalance pervades. The abuser is at the top, calling the shots, and the victim is in a subordinate position, becoming less able, as time goes by, to please her controller, to have contact with her friends and family, or to live as an autonomous person with her own thoughts, feelings and needs.
Like men controlled in a parallel but often less internalized way as, say, political prisoners – but with jailers who are clearly marked as the enemy and who are not the parents of their children – women become victims of the Stockholm Syndrome that robs them of self-will. They may come to fear escape, and they are not wrong. Statistically, battered women are most likely to be murdered when they “do the right thing” and leave their abuser.
Abuse happens in all socio-economic, racial, ethnic, and religious or secular groups. The greatest predictor of whether or not someone will experience violence in an intimate relationship is simply being female.
That’s not to say that all men are controlling and violent. Only about one in eight men have been raised in, or have otherwise so come to believe their very identity depends upon this Cult of Masculinity that makes them believe that their identity depends on being in control. It’s also not to say there are no male victims in heterosexual as well as gay relationships-- there are – or that lesbians never abuse their partners. But the overwhelming number of victims, (85%), are women, and the overwhelming number of abusers (90%) are men.
For decades, we have chosen to blame the victim. We have asked: “What did she do to anger him?” Or: “Why doesn’t she just leave?” If she does manage to escape serious injury or death, it is she who must leave the family home for a shelter, often with children and only the clothes on their backs. It is she who must leave her job, reconfigure her life, and take the kids out of school. It is he who may be allowed to cut off financial support, intimidate, stalk, harass and abuse her, even sue for custody of the children. Despite protective orders that require abusive men to stay away from their partners – orders that can make a difference in the seriousness with which this crime is treated by police and community -- many women have been murdered even after such orders were issued.
This website will have some statistics, but not a lot. It will serve as a kind of electronic reflecting pool, with factual stories about the ways in which domestic violence transforms and tears apart the lives of women, children, men, communities and society itself. Indeed, violence in the home can normalize violence for those who grow up with it, and thus is often a predictor of the degree of violence that is seen as acceptable or inevitable in the street, in society and even in foreign policy. Therefore, some have suggested that “domestic violence” is too limited a term, and that this phenomenon, should be called “original violence.” (Gloria Steinem)
We will offer new approaches to this root crime; approaches that take the blame off the backs of victims, and that look instead at the behavior and belief systems of abusers and the society that creates them.
We will do this with an eye on preventive collaboration. We will not only rescue and heal, but stop the violence before it starts.